7 Old-Timey Quotes About Running a Business That Still Apply Today

Marina Martinez

Posted by Marina Martinez
January 30, 2015

This century-old CEO advice is as relevant as ever.

 

The American business magnates of the nineteenth century—the so-called robber barons—were fond of grand pronouncements.

Some of their famous quotes sound like the words of exploitative tycoons, like the time railroad developer Jay Gould (b. 1836) supposedly claimed he could “hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” 

Yet some of the words of early industrialists seem downright wise, even for CEOs running a business in the twenty-first century. Though nebulous “knowledge work” has largely supplanted the industrial operations of these men, here are seven slices of wisdom from their bygone era that still ring true. 

 

1. “Statistics are no substitute for judgment.” —Henry Clay Frick (b. 1849)

Steel magnate Frick said this over one hundred years ago, back when there were a lot fewer statistics than there are today. In the data tsunami confronting modern business leaders, his words are truer than ever: we can’t let abundance of data points replace informed insight and judgment.

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CEO Best Practices #13: Anticipate Organizational Needs

Joel Trammell

Posted by Joel Trammell
January 27, 2015

How to predict the needs of your organization—and meet them before they become dire.

 

 

The world is constantly shifting around your organization. As CEO, it’s your responsibility to hone your prediction skills and set a strategy that faces forward, not backward.

But setting a future-oriented strategy isn’t good enough on its own. You also have to apply the thirteenth of my CEO best practices and make sure your organization has the resources it needs execute that strategy. Otherwise, you might as well try to drive your car to work with the gas tank on empty. It’s just not going to happen.

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CEO Best Practices #12: Attention to Detail

Joel Trammell

Posted by Joel Trammell
January 23, 2015

Here's how to manage the details of your business without losing sight of the big picture.

 

 

When we think of the role of the CEO, we usually think about strategy, vision, the “big picture.” Rightly so: it’s indisputably the role of the CEO to own all of these.

But what about the details of the company? Should you, as the chief executive, get involved in each little piece of the operation, weighing in on the website, product design, customer service, and so forth?

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The Best Definition of Entrepreneurship I’ve Heard So Far

Joel Trammell

Posted by Joel Trammell
January 20, 2015

My favorite definition—and why it matters to every CEO.

If you had to explain to someone who was learning English what an entrepreneur is, what would you say?

Maybe it seems like a simple question, but the meaning of the word can get slippery. Howard Stevenson, a longtime professor at Harvard Business School, recounts the story of a senior faculty member describing the field of entrepreneurship to a young person: “You peel it back layer by layer,” the faculty member said, “and when you get to the center, there is nothing there, but you are crying.” 

Stevenson is an expert on the topic of entrepreneurship, and perhaps it’s that frustration that drove him to craft what is in my opinion the best definition of entrepreneurship, one that has been used as a standard by Harvard Business School since the 1980s.

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Corporate Goal-Setting: Annual Isn't Enough

Marina Martinez

Posted by Marina Martinez
January 16, 2015

By this December, your goals for the year will be old and stale. Here's a better way.

 

Life-advice junkies are familiar with this common tip: when you're trying to accomplish something, break your big goal intosmallergoals. With shorter-term objectives, you get a quicker sense of accomplishment and momentum and can adjust your plan when things inevitably go awry.

CEOs and leaders take note: the same applies to corporate goal-setting.

Most companies, however, still set huge annual objectives with little regard for the milestones that will get them there. By the end of the year, the business may not be where everyone hoped. Circumstances changed. Behavior wasn’t as you predicted. You didn’t get the outcomes you expected. It’s demoralizing, and it lends a sense of futility to setting next year’s business goals.

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4 Powerful Ideas from Adam Bryant's New Book of CEO Interviews

Marina Martinez

Posted by Marina Martinez
January 13, 2015

If you read Adam Bryant’s “Corner Office” feature in the New York Times, you’re familiar with his knack for pulling sharp, practical leadership lessons out of CEO interviews.

Each week, Bryant sits down with a different chief executive and, with a few deceptively simple questions—“What were some early leadership lessons for you?” for example, or “How do you hire?”—has them opening up about what defines them as a leader, and what has contributed to their success in the top spot of the organization. Whether it’s the CEO of Marketo on the power of directness or the CEO of Clorox on putting your followers first, the conversations are always brief but enlightening.

Last week, Bryant released Quick and Nimble, his second book based on the column, and it’s a bounty of business insight. He’s expertly stitched together a tapestry of real-world wisdom, this time around the loose themes of culture and innovation—essentially, how can companies retain the coveted start-up spark as they grow into major players in their fields?

It’s worth reading for the sheer volume of plainspoken, practical advice it holds. For the most part, Bryant lets these leaders speak for themselves, dropping in like a moderator at a vast but well-run conference session to usher in the next topic. 

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3 Steps to Take Your Operations Meetings from Wasteful to Winning

Mason Hale

Posted by Mason Hale
January 9, 2015

Do your operations meetings really help the business run better?  This year, resolve to make sure they do more than burn time.


If you’re like me—or pretty much anyone else in corporate America—you’ve endured your share of long, pointless meetings.

Many of us treat them like Dilbert jokes. (Haha, off to another meeting! Man, my day is nothing but meetings!) But when you’re the CEO, the cost of the collective time frittered away in them is no chuckling matter.If you’re like me—or pretty much anyone else in corporate America—you’ve endured your share of long, pointless meetings.

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Prediction: The CEO Skill That Could Make or Break Your 2015

Joel Trammell

Posted by Joel Trammell
January 6, 2015

Making good predictions is a game changer for CEOs. Here’s how to do it well this year.

It’s the start of a new year, which means it’s time to make predictions for 2015.

Will Hillary run? Will wearables really become a thing?

Nobody knows, of course. Time flows only one way. But for CEOs, making accurate predictions means the difference between success and failure. When a chief executive fails, it’s almost always because he or she wasn’t able to anticipate how the business would perform in a given quarter or year.

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